1) Houston (3-1, 0-1)
No one in C-USA has two higher quality wins. A loss at UTEP has narrowed the (perceived) gap between Houston and everyone else in C-USA.
Starting out 0-1 in C-USA is not the statement the previously 12th-ranked Houston Cougars wanted to make.
The UTEP game was the first of five for Houston in October. Hats off to the AD at Houston for a tough out-of-conference schedule. Hats off to Houston for winning the first three of those. If they win this next one, this team could be right back in the top 25, ready to take C-USA by storm.
It won't be easy for Houston to win out as they are in a stretch of 10 games in 10 weeks...zero bye weeks in there. That is something the AD shouldn't be congratulated for.
Bigger games remaining include @ Mississippi State, vs. So Miss, and @ Tulsa.
Up next: @ Mississippi State
2) Tulsa (4-1, 2-0)
Four of Tulsa's first five games were on the road. Tulsa has five more games to play at home. Tulsa is a home team.
Tulsa has four wins against the four opponents they should have beat. That is more than Houston or Southern Miss can say about games they should have won.
Tulsa has the inside track to win C-USA West. If Tulsa can win at UTEP, they could be favorites for the remainder of the schedule.
Tulsa has a championship-level schedule with both OU and Boise State. Their defense is playing championship defense (No. 1 in C-USA), but their offense is a shell of what we've seen in 2007 and 2008 when Tulsa was the No. 1 offense in the nation. Also, Tulsa is yet to beat a team with a winning record. The teams Tulsa beat are a combined 4-14.
Undefeated Boise State is coming to Tulsa Oct. 14.
Up next: vs. No. 6 Boise State
3) East Carolina (3-2, 2-0)
Is ECU back? Maybe they never went anywhere, but their previous 2-2 record full of dismal performances was unimpressive. Defeating 3-1 Marshall at Marshall is impressive. ECU will have its hands full vying with USM to win C-USA East.
Up next: @ SMU
4) Southern Miss (3-2, 1-1)
Do not be mistaken: Southern Miss was missing two star players when they were upset by UAB. That may or may not be a good excuse, but they will both be back next week. Unfortunately, the starting QB, Austin Davis, is out for the season after a 4th quarter injury in that game. Don't count So Miss out yet. Their backup is very capable and surrounded by great talent. They should still win most of their remaining games.
So Miss needs to make a statement against a very bad Louisville team. They will then have two easier games at home they must win. Then they'll play a brutal four-game stretch to end the season that includes games @ Houston, @ Marshall, Tulsa, and @ ECU. It may not be likely, but if USM can win three of those, they should be in the C-USA Championship game. Nevertheless, look for USM to drop behind Marshall and perhaps even UCF, if things get really bad without Davis.
Up next: vs. @ Louisville
5) Marshall (3-2, 1-1)
This team isn't supposed to lose at home, or at least not that easily. ECU came from behind to win. Why is this team so underwhelming? Is it the three-point win vs. Southern Illinois, the 42-point loss to Virginia Tech, the seven-point win over Bowling Green, or the 27-16 win over Memphis? A disappointing finish to a marginal beginning awaits...
Up next: @ Tulane
6) UCF (3-2, 1-2)
This team is on the rise. The two losses were very close and were to teams that were supposed to beat them (ECU and USM). This may be the wrong time to host Miami (or maybe not). This team will need to win the ones it is supposed to (Rice and Tulane) and then one other in order to gain bowl eligibility
Up next: vs. Miami
8) UTEP (2-3, 1-0)
The loss to Buffalo (now 1-4) was bad. The losses to Kansas and Texas (although expected) were a bit too embarrassing to be forgotten, even after scoring 58 in a victory over No. 12 Houston.
This may be the toughest home team in C-USA. They have a great opportunity to win this next one to go 3-3 before playing Tulsa at home. Thanks to three very beatable teams coming to El Paso in November, this team could realistically be bowl eligible by Nov. 21.
Up next: @ Memphis
7) UAB (2-3, 2-1)
This team may be better than its record. Maybe. The offense has been incredible at times. With a few more wins (which won't come until after this week), they will easily climb the rankings.
Up next: vs. @ Ole Miss
9) SMU (2-2, 1-0)
I bet SMU fans got excited after SMU matched their win total from the previous two years in just two weeks...
Up next: vs. ECU
10) Tulane (2-2, 0-1)
The victory over Army may be the last of the season. They do have about four winnable games left.
Up next: vs. Marshall
11) Memphis (1-4, 0-2)
This team is dropping—and fast. It was a bad time to have UCF, who is on the rise, come to town.
Up next: vs. UTEP
12) Rice (0-5, 0-2)
The big question everyone in Houston is asking is, "Will Rice win a game?" Not really. No one is talking about this team. They have put up good fights against Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt, and Tulsa. Until they can start winning some of these "good fights," they will be the punching bag of C-USA. Injuries have plagued this team.
Rice has four games left in which a win would not be a spectacular upset.